(May 5, 2019 / CAMERA) It has been over a week since The New York Times published an anti-Semitic cartoon that sent shock waves across the political spectrum.
The drawing depicted U.S. President Donald Trump as a blind Jew clumsily following behind a guide dog, with a Star of David around its collar, whose face was that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Condemnation of the Times poured in quickly.
“There is really no excuse for The New York Times to publish such a blatantly anti-Semitic image as the one in this cartoon,” said Dan Shapiro, former U.S. ambassador to Israel. “Not acceptable in any way.”
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in a tweeted statement: “We stand with Israel and we condemn antisemitism in ALL its forms, including @nytimes political cartoons.”
“The same New York Times that a century ago mostly hid from their readers the Holocaust of the Jewish people,” said Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, “has today made its pages a safe space for those who hate the Jewish state. Through biased coverage, slanderous columns and anti-Semitic cartoons, its editors shamefully choose week after week to cast the Jewish state as a force for evil.”
The New York Times responded to the controversy by issuing an editor’s note, an apology, and two editorials. It also severed its relationship with the cartoon syndicate that supplied the controversial drawing.
However, according to Gilead Ini, a senior research analyst at CAMERA, more needs to be done.
“While we’re grateful for the Times’s apology and condemnation of anti-Semitism,” said Ini, “we see the cartoon as the culminating point in a long history of biased reporting against the Jewish state. Concrete steps need to be taken in the Times newsroom to reverse the culture of bias that made possible the cartoon’s publication.”
Late last year, a Times interview in the paper endorsed with no qualification an anti-Semitic book by conspiracy theorist David Icke that promotes Holocaust denial and ideas from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, he noted.
The changes thedaily newspaper needs to take include five specific steps, according to a statement put out by CAMERA, written by Ini.
The first step is a commitment to transparency.
“In their apology, the Times promised to make ‘significant changes,’ ” said Ini. “But the paper must transparently support its promise of change.”
“What disciplinary action will be taken?” asked Ini. “How will editors be trained to recognize anti-Jewish bigotry? Has the paper adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism? What staffing changes will be made?”
The second step, according to Ini, is for Times journalists to commit to the principle of impartiality when covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“While Times editors make a point of promising to cover the news ‘without fear or favor,’ its habit of favoring Israel’s opponents is glaring,” wrote Ini. “In recent months, for example, the paper minimized broad criticism of anti-Semitic comments by anti-Israel members of Congress, wrongly suggesting that only ‘Republicans’ or ‘some Jewish Democrats’ were behind the condemnation.”
The third step involves balance of coverage: “If the newspaper begins to treat Israel as it does other countries, it will be more likely to treat anti-Semitism, including the variety that invokes Israel, as it does other forms of dangerous bigotry.”
The fourth step demands accountability. Ini said “the newspaper’s complaints process is a black box.”
“Editors must give good-faith, forthright responses to reasonable complaints so that the public knows its concerns are taken seriously—if necessary, with the help of an independent public editor,” he said.
The last step must be to make a commitment to factual accuracy.
“There is a backlog of substantive, straightforward errors about the Jewish state that have not been corrected,” Ini wrote. “To underscore for readers and reporters alike that there is no ‘Israel exception’ to ethical journalism, the newspaper must correct its outstanding factual errors about the Jewish state.”
Ini said if The New York Times takes these five steps to improve—transparency, impartiality, balance, accountability and accuracy—then the newspaper can regain the public’s trust.
“Will that happen?” said Ini. “I think we’re all still waiting to see.”